President's Message: So Much To Do...

by Mitch Pomerantz

A new year begins: 2013!  We have all come through an election season, the holiday shopping and celebration season, the ACB budget season (for some of us), and everything else associated with November and December.

Donna and I have just survived and recovered from a serious case of International Date Line jetlag.  Ten days ago as I write this, we staggered off an airliner after a marathon flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Los Angeles involving a very brief stop and change of planes in Hong Kong which followed our attendance at the 8th quadrennial conference of the World Blind Union.  For those who don't know (and I didn't until our trip), Bangkok is 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles, which made calling home an exercise in addition and subtraction.  It took us a while to readjust to the Pacific time zone.

A brief note about the WBU gathering.  Our international guest of honor at last summer's convention, Arnt Holte, was elected to a four-year term as president.  As vice president of the North American/Caribbean region of the WBU, I participated in two meetings of what is referred to as the executive, comprised of the president, vice president and two at-large members from each of the six WBU regions, as well as the five officers elected at the conference.  We heard a number of fascinating presentations during the week, both during the plenary sessions and at the various workshops conducted on Thursday and Friday.  I returned with a score of business cards from attendees, many of whom I will maintain contact with in the future.  ACB's other delegate, first vice president Kim Charlson, did an excellent job in representing ACB; she and Brian took a few additional days to be tourists in Hong Kong following the WBU meeting.

Since this is my first column of the new year and the beginning of my final few months as ACB president, I got to thinking about some of the initiatives which still require serious attention between now and the close of our conference and convention in mid-July.  The one which immediately comes to mind is my participation on the working group established under the auspices of the U.S. Access Board - as the result of language ACB had included in legislation - to develop "best practices" in the provision of accessible prescription drug labeling.  On January 10th and 11th, I will attend the first meeting of this working group in Washington, D.C., along with a representative from the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, participants from a number of other senior and disability organizations and several pharmacy industry representatives.  This group has been charged with having a final report available for public comment by this July, which means we will be working hard to suggest methods for making certain that people who are blind, deaf/blind, visually impaired, or have other disabilities will have access to the same printed information on prescription drug labels as do non-disabled people.

We are anxiously awaiting release of the document from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding minimum sound standards for hybrid vehicles which was supposed to have been released on or before our national conference and convention this past July.  When it finally emerges from some government official's inbox, ACB will have the opportunity to offer our comments in response to this long-delayed report.  As mentioned previously, I've also had the opportunity to give input to a group of engineers working with SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers.  These folks have done some excellent work and appear to truly understand that without identifiable sound for every hybrid vehicle, blind and visually impaired people will be in serious peril whenever we leave our homes.

Leaving the advocacy arena, ACB Radio continues to bring our message to the blind community throughout the United States and the world.  During the aforementioned WBU meeting, ACB Radio's managing director, Larry Turnbull, heard from listeners from several countries who were depending upon our gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conference.  During this month, we will be launching a new stream, ACB Radio World News and Information, which is aimed at attracting listeners who do not necessarily have any sort of vision impairment.  We are excited about this new venture as it develops over the next several months.

Our board of directors is fully engaged in implementing the strategic plan which was finalized during 2012.  The plan has four specific goals and four excellent chairpersons to facilitate the tasks required to see those goals brought to fruition.  Each goal group includes several board members as well as other leaders with expertise in specific areas.  The goal and chair of each group are as follows: Goal 1 - Strengthen communications and marketing of ACB, Carla Ruschival; Goal 2 - Strengthen ACB funding efforts, Dan Spoone; Goal 3 - Develop and implement a plan to strengthen paid staff and volunteer help, Kim Charlson; Goal 4 - Review and recommend modifications to the overall structure of ACB to maximize its work performance, Paul Edwards.  I have participated on monthly calls for goal groups 1 and 2, and I can tell you that both are doing an outstanding job of meeting those goals and achieving the objectives outlined in our strategic plan.

Preparations are moving forward for the affiliate presidents meeting and legislative seminar scheduled from Saturday through Tuesday, Feb. 23-26, at the Holiday Inn National Airport in Arlington, Va., and the 52nd annual ACB national conference and convention taking place from July 4-12, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Columbus, Ohio.  I want to strongly encourage affiliate leaders, especially newly elected state and special-interest affiliate leaders, to attend the presidents' meeting.  Our goal is to provide you with information that will help you to manage your affiliate effectively and give you a better understanding of what the national organization is doing to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people.  As for the conference and convention, all I can tell you is that if you have never attended one, you will have a wonderful experience which you will remember for years to come.  The energy and camaraderie at one of those gatherings must be experienced firsthand and I hope many of you will do just that.

One of the realities any outgoing president must come to grips with is the fact that he or she did not accomplish everything they intended to.  Nonetheless, I begin my final approximately six months in office believing that a great deal of what I set out to do has either been accomplished, or is well on its way toward being achieved.  In my final president's column later this year, I'll spend more time discussing this topic as well as some of my disappointments as president.  Suffice it to say for now that all of us in the ACB family still have much work to do to complete our mission.  Every member of this organization has something he or she can contribute to that mission if only we are motivated to contribute the time and energy necessary.  There is still so much work that needs doing!